FBI documents describe motive of Santa Cruz deputy’s accused killer and Boogaloo

Bay Area

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) — Steven Carrillo was seething with anger. He chastised and lectured Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies who were hauling him away in handcuffs.

According to FBI investigators, Air Force Sgt. Carrillo had just murdered Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in an ambush and shot a second deputy. He glared with scorn at the deputies who lead him away from his mountainous Ben Lomond neighborhood.

A white sedan was parked nearby that had been carjacked during an hour-long manhunt. On the back of the car, the word “BOOG” was scrawled in blood. FBI agents said Carrillo also used his own blood to write, “I became unreasonable.”

Patch on Carrillo’s vest

Carrillo’s ballistic vest had a patch on it showing an igloo and Hawaiian-style print, symbols of the “boogaloo boys.” The phrase “I became unreasonable” is a meme widely shared on Boogaloo social media pages.

Carrillo, 32, was an active-duty U.S. Air Force staff sergeant based at Travis Air Force Base, where he was a member of the Phoenix Ravens, a specially-trained security force. Their training included “verbal judo, combatives … explosive ordnance awareness … unarmed self-defense techniques… and advanced firearms proficiency,” Travis Air Force Base Capt. Amanda Farr said.

FBI agents quickly realized that Carrillo’s AR-15 rifle and white van were the firearm and vehicle that they had been working around-the-clock to find since May 29, when a federal law enforcement officer was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Oakland.

Thousands of George Floyd movement demonstrators were in downtown Oakland May 29 protesting police brutality. A few blocks away, federal security officer David Underwood was shot to death and his partner was wounded at a federal courthouse. Carrillo was the gunman and an accomplice he met on Facebook, Robert Alvin Justus Jr., served as the getaway driver, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

The complaint details Carrillo’s state of mind and motive when he allegedly went on a mission to kill cops.

AR-15 seized by FBI

“Boogaloo” is a growing group of online extremists that aim to use peaceful protests against police brutality to spread their radical views and spark a civil war.  The FBI said Carrillo conspired with other “boogaloo boys” online to use the Oakland George Floyd demonstration as a cover for the crime and to escape.

The FBI said followers of the Boogaloo ideology identify as militia and “share a narrative of inciting a violent uprising against perceived government tyranny.”

Steven Carrillo
Steven Carrillo mug shot

During questioning with FBI agents, Justus described Carrillo as being “excited and thrilled” after killing the Oakland officer. Carrillo exclaimed, “Did you see how they f**king fell,” the complaint states.

The day before the Oakland attack, Carrillo and Justus exchanged communications over Facebook, according to the complaint.

Carrillo posted in a Facebook group, “It’s on our coast now, this needs to be nationwide. It
a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois. Keep that energy going,” followed by two fire emojis and a link to a YouTube video showing a crowd attacking CHP vehicles.

Federal law enforcement agencies are sometimes referred colloquially to as “alphabet soup” agencies.

Justus responded by writing, “Lets boogie.”

Another Facebook user commented, “Starting tomorrow, Oakland be popping off. Maybe more.”

Message written in blood on carjacked vehicle

The complaint states that on May 29 Carrillo wrote on Facebook, “Go to the riots and support our own cause. Show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire. Think outside the box. We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage.”

Carrillo’s clash with deputies in Ben Lomond unfolded on June 6, a week after the Oakland murder. A witness reported seeing a white van parked on a vacant property with guns and bomb-making equipment inside. The van’s VIN number was registered to Carrillo and his 120 Waldeberg Road Ben Lomond address.

When deputies went to Carrillo home, they were met by bullets and bombs. Gutzwiller and Deputy Alex Spencer were both shot in the chest. Spencer remarkably survived despite also being hit by bomb shrapnel and struck by the assailant’s feeling vehicle.

A CHP officer shot Carrillo in the leg at some point during the melee. While he was trying to hide from law enforcement during the manhunt and carjack more victims, Carrillo was finally tackled and disarmed by a good Samaritan, according to Sheriff Jim Hart.

He is being charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of Gutzwiller and Underwood.

“Liberty flourishes in the rule of law,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  

“Indiscriminate targeting of law enforcement officers by those motivated by violent extremism of any stripe is contrary to our nation’s values and undermines the powerful message of peaceful protesters. We stand firmly against anyone who seeks to hijack the protests with acts of violence and destruction,” Demers said.

Justin Ehrhardt, who served with Carrillo in the Air Force, said Carillo may have planning a bigger attack, but the Ben Lomond gun battle with deputies and good Samaritans quick actions in detaining him stopped it from happening.

“I believe there was probably something bigger that he was planning on doing and the fact that these citizens were able to disarm him of his AR-15, the pistol and the pipe bombs he had. They risked everything to protect their town and citizens,” Ehrhardt said.

Ehrhardt said Carrillo showed no signs of extremism while they served together from 2011-2013 at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The Washington Post described Boogaloos as “a loosely connected online community, with no formal organization, leadership or coherent set of beliefs. Almost everything about the far-right ideology — starting with the name, spawned from online jokes about a 1982 break-dancing film — bubbled up through meme-sharing on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube and more obscure sites such as 4chan and Gab.”

Carillo’s Facebook profile image showed George Washington and other presidents brandishing weapons and tactical gear. In one of his last posts venting about police’s excessive use of force, Carrillo shared the video footage of Buffalo police shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground.

In response to the Carrillo case, Acting Secretary for Homeland Security Chad Wolf said, “The Department of Homeland Security will continue its mission to end violent extremism in any form.”

Carrillo could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder charges filed against him.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it was deleting hundreds of accounts run by similar groups, namely, “Proud Boys” and the “American Guard.”

Facebook officials said they are monitoring the groups’ social media presence and taking action when they see attempts to exploit the ongoing George Floyd movement protests.

A June 16 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice announcing federal charges against Carrillo is below:

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At a press conference held this morning at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Oakland, the Department of Justice announced that murder and attempted murder charges have been filed against Steven Carrillo, the alleged gunman in the May 29, 2020, drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of Protective Security Officer David Patrick Underwood and injuries to a second security officer. The Department of Justice also announced aiding and abetting charges against Robert Alvin Justus, Jr., the driver of the vehicle from which Carrillo is alleged to have attacked the guards.

“Pat Underwood was murdered because he wore a uniform,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson, “but he was much more than just the uniform he wore.  Pat Underwood was a brother, a father, and a son. Many, many people will miss hearing the sound of his voice and laughter.  Pat Underwood wore his uniform because it signified his authority to protect the courthouse where we are gathered here today.  This courthouse exists to administer justice, to uphold the rule of law, and to protect the freedoms that we all cherish.  In announcing today’s charges, we are reaffirming our determination to protect those who protect us.”

 “Liberty flourishes in the rule of law,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Indiscriminate targeting of law enforcement officers by those motivated by violent extremism of any stripe is contrary to our nation’s values and undermines the powerful message of peaceful protestors.  The Department of Justice stands in support of all Americans exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceable assembly and speech but we stand firmly against anyone who seeks to hijack the protests with acts of violence and destruction.”  

“I applaud the agents and officers who investigated and captured those responsible for the attack on Federal Protective Service officers resulting in the death of Officer Underwood and serious injury of his partner,” said Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.  “As the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, the Department’s top priority is protecting the American people and our workforce, and we are not going to rest until these criminals are brought to justice. The assassination and injury of federal officers who swore an oath to protect the American public will not be tolerated. The Department of Homeland Security will continue its mission to end violent extremism in any form.”

“ATF immediately responded to these shooting incidents to make available our personnel to support our partners with the investigations into these crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Patrick Gorman, San Francisco Field Division, ATF. “ATF provided investigative and forensic support throughout the investigation into these crimes.  This included local special agents, as well as, laboratory and firearms enforcement officer resources from the greater Washington, DC area. ATF personnel examined firearm evidence and utilized our National Integrated Ballistic Information Network or NIBIN. The complaints describe the work ATF personnel performed to uncover the purported similarities between the recovered fired cartridge cases found at the Oakland and Ben Lomond homicides. These senseless crimes, which resulted in the tragic loss of Patrick and Damon and caused serious injuries to others, should not have occurred.  ATF will continue to make available our resources and support to our partners throughout this investigation.”

The charges against Carrillo and Justus were brought in two criminal complaints, one filed against each defendant.  According to the complaints, at approximately 9:27 p.m., on May 29, 2020, a white Ford Econoline-style van parked directly across the street from the federal building in Oakland on Jefferson Street.  The van was parked facing the guard post where Officer Underwood and his partner that evening stood guard to protect the building.  The van was on the southeast corner in the spot closest to the intersection with an unobstructed view of the guard post.  Shortly after the van parked, a man emerged from the driver’s seat and walked around the area conducting reconnaissance for approximately ten minutes.  Then, at approximately 9:43 p.m., the exterior lights of the van turned on and the van moved north on Jefferson Street toward the guard post.  The passenger-side sliding door opened, and Carrillo allegedly fired multiple rounds from a firearm toward the guard post, killing Officer Underwood and injuring his partner.

 The incident set off an eight-day manhunt that came to a crescendo after a witness reported an abandoned white Ford van in Ben Lomond, Calif. The van reportedly contained what appeared to be ammunition, firearms, and bomb-making equipment and an effort apparently was made to alter the van’s appearance with spray paint and a wheel covering to disguise a missing hubcap.  Nevertheless, evidence from the van led deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office to Carrillo’s residence in Ben Lomond.  There, Carrillo allegedly opened fire on the deputies when they arrived at his property, killing one deputy and injuring a second.  During the attack there was also an explosion on the property. 

The complaints describe a subsequent odyssey during which Carrillo was shot and fled the scene initially on foot, and then by carjacking a vehicle on a nearby highway.  The chase came to an end when, bleeding from his hip, Carrillo was taken into custody.

Additional items were recovered at Carrillo’s Ben Lomond residence included an AR-15-style short-barreled rifle fitted with a binary trigger that fired one round of 9mm ammunition at the pull of the trigger and another round at the release of the trigger.  The rifle was fitted with a silencer that suppressed the sound of gunfire from the rifle. In addition, Carrillo appears to have used his own blood to write various phrases on the hood of the car that he carjacked.  The phrases relate to an extremist ideology that promotes inciting a violent uprising through use of militias.

Cell phone records from Carrillo’s phone identified Justus as a person with whom Carrillo may have been communicating in the days leading up to the drive-by shooting attack in Oakland.  On June 11, while the FBI had Justus under surveillance, travelled to the Federal Building in San Francisco, met with the FBI, and was thereafter arrested for his involvement in the shooting, including his role as the driver of the vehicle.

The charges contained in the criminal complaints are allegations only.  Carrillo and Justus are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Carrillo is charged with one count of murder of a person assisting an officer or employee of the United States Government, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1) and 1114(3) and one count of attempted murder under the same statutes.  If convicted of the murder charge, the maximum statutory penalty for this charge is death.  If convicted of the attempted murder charge, Carrillo faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and restitution.  Justus is charged with aiding and abetting the murder and attempted murder and faces the same maximum statutory penalties.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Justus made his initial appearance Monday, June 15, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler, and was detained for further proceedings.  His next appearance is scheduled for Friday, 10:30 am, before Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore for identification of counsel and additional proceedings.  An initial federal court appearance has not yet been scheduled for Carrillo.

 The case is being prosecuted by United States Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson and the Oakland Branch of the Office of the United States Attorney with assistance from George Kraehe of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.  The case is being investigated by the FBI, the ATF, the FPS, and the U.S. Marshal Service with assistance from the Oakland Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

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